Gazelle Leaps into the E-Waste Market with Focus on Reuse

Gazelle Leaps into the E-Waste Market with Focus on Reuse

Think, for a moment, about that one place in your house where you don't like to go.

That closet. The garage. In my house, it's the attic. Ugh.

The place where you put stuff you no longer want or need.

"How much is enough?" asks Israel Ganot.

Ganot, who is the president, co-founder and CEO of Gazelle, spoke today at the GreenBiz Forum 12 in New York. He has a way to help you de-clutter your home, at least when it comes to electronics. Gazelle buys back cell phones, laptops and other electronics, offers free shipping and then pays you for them. Gazelle makes money by reselling the used goods in the U.S. or abroad. What it can't resell, it recycles.

"We give new life to old gadgets that still have value," he says.

The company is growing fast, Ganot told me. It took in about 300,000 trade-ins last year, and has begun to build its brand by running TV ads like this one. The privately-held firm does not release financial information, but venture capitalists Andrew Williamson of Physic Ventures and Wilber James of Rockport Capital Partners, both of which have invested in Gazelle, tell me that the company's doing very well.

Certainly there's no shortage on the supply side. Every year, according to Ganot, Americans throw away about 130 million cell phones and 50 million computers. The U.S. exports 3.7 million tons of ewaste to the developing world every year, he said. Only a small fraction of that ends up with Gazelle or other recyclers.

Many people store old phones or laptops in closets, attics or garages, intending to re-sell them or give them away, but few do. "How many of you were planning to sell it on eBay or Craigslist but never got around to it?" Ganot asked. "It's a pain, right?"

Gazelle aims to make it easy. Along with cell phones and laptops, the company takes back digital cameras, GPS devices, gaming consoles, camcorders and video games. It tells consumers up-front what it will pay. The company resells electronics at the Gazelle Store on eBay or the Gazelle Shop on Amazon, or overseas.

A former eBay and PayPal executive, Ganot has experience building large-scale web-based businesses. But Gazelle is more than a business to him. He talks about the idea of un-shopping, and challenged the GreenBiz audience to sell or give away something -- electronics, a child's sippy cup or toy, or a T-shirt--that they no longer want or need.

"How many T-shirts can one guy wear?," he asks. "People every day are un-shopping their lives, freeing themselves from needless stuff."